Some Tarrant voters had problems casting ballots on Election Day

Some Tarrant County voters on Tuesday reported that a number of the new, multi-million dollar voting machines were down.

Early in the day, voters reported that all machines were down at some sites, such as Genesis United Methodist Church on Hulen Street. Others said some machines were down but some were working at sites such as Northpark YMCA on North Beach Street.

When voters complained about machines being down and long lines at Keller Town Hall, election officials sent more machines to that site. They did the same for a handful of other sites where long lines were reported.

“This is the first Election Day where we’ve used machines versus paper ballots,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said. “That’s why we chose an off-cycle election to first use the machines.

“We knew this was going to be different for people.”

Many voters reported having no problem casting ballots on Tuesday. By mid-day, many problems seemed to be worked out at most Tarrant polling sites, election workers said.

Tarrant Elections Administrator Heider Garcia said his office was gathering information about problems at polling sites and trying to determine how big the impact was.

There was no estimate of how many sites had downed computers.

“We’ve had some malfunctions,” Whitley said. “We haven’t had machines break down.”

New machines

Voters on Tuesday used, for the first time, new voting equipment.

These new $11 million machines have a touchscreen where voters can review the ballot and make their choices. The machine will print a list of the choices made. After you review that sheet, you insert it into a scanner to cast your vote.

Some voters reported, among other problems, paper jams.

Sean Crotty, a TCU professor who tried to vote at Daggett around 7:30 a.m., said he was turned away and directed to Southside Church of Christ because of computer problems.

Trouble continued at the church, where paper versions of the ballot were getting jammed in the printer. He said poll workers told him that humidity might have swelled the paper.

Tuesday morning, at E.M. Daggett Elementary School, 958 Page Ave., presiding judge Evan Hausenfluke said some voters had trouble, but the issue was likely related to a faulty computer connection that was quickly resolved. Tests have worked seamlessly, he said, and voters seem to like the new system.

“There’s gonna be some complication anytime you’re using new equipment, but this seems much safer,” he said. “I’ve been very pleased with it.”

Tarrant problems

There were lines at polling places throughout the day, particularly because more than twice as many people voted on Election Day Tuesday as had in the entire early voting period, which drew a record 44,088 early ballots.

At the Tarrant County Plaza Building, 201 Burnett Street, a polling location in downtown Fort Worth, poll workers said a learning curve may have slowed some voters Tuesday morning, but overall there had been no issues.

“It works great once you figure it out,” said Brian Luenser, an alternate election judge.

Also new on Tuesday was that, for the first time, Tarrant County voters could vote at any polling place.

There are 332 vote centers, eight fewer polling sites in Tarrant County than last year.

“We knew there would be some hiccups,” Whitley said. “We will do exactly what we knew we would do from here.

“We will train and train and train” before next year’s elections.

For any election information, call the Tarrant County Elections Center at 817-831-8683.

Staff writers Luke Ranker and Kaley Johnson contributed to this report.
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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.